RogueLikes are coming back into vogue at the moment, with their randomised nature being the perfect match for bored minds and simple goals (usually just ‘reach the next exit alive’) lending themselves to mobile play.
Developed by Nitrome games, Rust Bucket is in effect a fleshed out version of their FREE icon-based title Turnament (play now by clicking HERE) which managed to take all of the fun of a turn-based dungeon crawl and squash it into the tiny space of a single net-icon, and the offspring of Ending (play now by clicking HERE) from Aaron Steed, making for a game with a strong pedigree behind it. Originally developed under the working title ‘Turnament SD’, the game had a name-change to Rust Bucket after people had trouble spelling the original in google.
Graphically, Nitrome is well known for its high quality of 2D sprite and background work. Rust Bucket is no exception to this and although it re-uses the same basic dungeon look for the entire game it does display a wealth of detail and variety within the one environment. Rust Bucket himself is a single helmet that hops around the screen with a great deal of charm and it’s always easy to know which way he’s facing given his design. Monsters look amusing and range from hopping skulls to giant pink pigs, giving the game a subtle sense of humour. Smaller graphical touches such as shattering pots and pulling keys behind you help to add to the immersion of the title.
Sound is a mixed bag. Effects are clearly recorded and the samples we get are interesting to listen to and unique, however the same samples are used again and again with little variation by the nature of the games design, with you hearing perhaps everything the game has to offer audibly within the first ten minutes of play. Music too is nice, with a Mega Drive-style feel to it but the game only seems to have three tracks. One for the menu screen, one for the game over screen and another that plays while you’re actively in a dungeon. A little more variety would go a long way into making this title better suited for longer play sessions, especially in its endless mode.
Story is a non-event, but then this is a fairly obvious case of ‘why bother’ when the game lays out its intentions clearly from the start. Trying to give a narrative to a helmet that traverses an endless dungeon, smashing bottles and killing hopping pigs seems meaningless. It’s pure fun and trying to give it logic is like trying to spoil the events unfolding in front of you. For once this is a title that would perhaps be made worse by including a story mode.
The gameplay that this title offers is classic RogueLike stuff, but stripped down to its core principles. You’ll not be collecting treasure or levelling your character here, instead the games drive is to survive and make it to the exit without taking a hit. One touch from an enemy kills you instantly and you’ll need to restart from a checkpoint (available in the games pre-set tutorial campaign, which both acts as a guide on how to play and a tidy little series of dungeons in their own right) or over again from scratch in the main game. Luckily you’re given a visual hint that moving to a square will kill you before doing so, making for a smoother process where you only blame yourself for a death rather than lazy game design, and even with the hint system in place you’ll die often. Aside from monsters there are environmental hazards such as burning tiles that can easily destroy you. For every move you make the enemies and hazards around you will make one too. NPCs do exist, as do a number of clever puzzle solving elements (cloning yourself and having to play the game on two fronts with the one control scheme is particularly fun) that all add to the variety of the title, and swiping neatly controls everything, making a single image of a finger on-screen all you need to know about getting around at the game’s outset. Unlike other Nitrome titles there’s no money to collect to unlock additional characters or content, which feels like a little bit of a let-down and can rob some of the joy from dungeon crawling when loot is replaced with points for every golden door opened, and a single purchase on this otherwise free title will remove all adverts (which pop up upon your death). The title screen does have a third, empty slot between endless and tutorial modes that is yet to be filled, promising perhaps a meaty campaign of pre-made dungeons yet to come or some other more interesting play mode Nitrome can unveil later, but for the most part what you see is what you get with Rust Bucket. It’s a clever puzzle-based RogueLike that’s free to download and play.
Featuring awesome graphics, a simple play scheme and some inventive puzzles for the genre, Rust Bucket is a lot of fun to play. In its current state however it’s not quite the main attraction, rather a game you’ll play while waiting for something else to load or a timer to tick over on a freemium title. The lack of visible progress is also a problem, RogueLikes are an unforgiving genre but taking no treasure or development away makes some sessions in Endless mode feel pointless. The Tutorial is a fantastic mini-campaign however and worth the effort of downloading the game alone, and with that as-yet unannounced third slot on the title screen the game has more to offer us in the future. I strongly recommend you download it for yourself and check this game out.